We may live in a digital age, but paper still pushes my button. It’s a big part of the collecting life, isn’t it? Original product catalogs that list model numbers and colors, magazine advertisements showing the objects of our desire, even ink blotters that companies used to hawk their wares to the buying public. These things fill in the gaps in our collections and often give us a wonderful peek into the time and space these things first occupied.
And then there are boxes. I’ve heard other collectors complain that some of us are too hung up on hunting for items in their original boxes, that we’re obsessed with finding artifacts that are as perfect as possible. Guilty as charged. I’d like to think it goes back to when I was a kid, and the wonder and excitement I felt when I was given a gift at Christmas or on my birthday; sure, I did my share of tearing toys out of their packages and tossing the mangled cardboard into the trash, but I also have memories of especially colorful or beautiful boxes, too. I thought the box (the square one, not the vertical) for Aurora’s plastic model kit of The Mummy was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen, and I would have papered the walls of my room with Corgi boxes if I a) had had more than 10 cents in my pocket and b) was willing to be grounded for life.
It’s more likely I’m just a picky fussbudget with condition issues. I confess that I love discovering and acquiring and living with objects in their original condition and in their original packaging. And yes, occasionally selling them as well, which of course is far easier to do when the item doesn’t look like five miles of bad road. An original box, or blistercard, or bag, or whatever, usually makes for a great display with the item; this is particularly true with antique toy and model cars, which more or less demand to be displayed on top of their boxes and with sufficient lighting, thank you very much.
As long as we’re getting in touch with our inner children, let me also state for the record that old boxes smell great. Well, usually. Don’t believe me? Open up one of those puppies and take a whiff…unless the box originally housed a food product (and even those settle in over time), odds are it will have a deliciously musty odor that flat out screams antique. Must be a result of being closed up for all those years, or perhaps cardboard reacts chemically with oxygen to gradually age and mellow, like a fine wine. Or maybe it’s the Doppler effect. I have no idea, but I can tell you I’ve gotten more than one strange look doing this at shows and in antique shops. Seems to me that those strange looks would turn to nods of knowing approval if people would just give the sniff test a try. At least they could humor me.
Douglas R. Kelly thinks we all should save the boxes that our smartphones come in, making life for 23rd century collectors just that little bit easier.